Night Fisher Story Structure
Spoiler Warning! Below is the plot structure of Night Fisher using Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet as the basis for the breakdown (see my review of Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, an excellent storytelling resource). For an explanation of each “beat” please refer to Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet. Thanks!
PREMISE: Night Fisher is a right of passage story about a teenage boy in Hawaii who starts smoking meth to maintain a friendship with his best friend.
Opening Image: While night fishing in ocean waters, alone, the protagonist, Loren Foster, reads a textbook on the evolution of Hawaiian geology. This story will be about evolution: who or what we are gradually allowing ourselves to be.
Set Up: The next morning, Loren returns to his Hawaiian home where his father is tending to their front yard (which is overrun with weeds). We learn that their house is very expensive and his father has become a workaholic to afford it, putting a strain on their already distant relationship. The share a surface-level chat about fishing, yard work and the Bowline knot – which Loren does not know how to tie – until Loren’s dad asks about Loren’s best friend, Shane. Shane was supposed to join Loren in fishing but didn’t show. Did they have a falling out? Loren ignores the question.
Theme Stated: A smalltime pot dealer at Loren’s prep school, Jem, informs Loren that Shane has been smoking meth and keeping it a secret (Loren is too much of a boy scout for Shane to tell him about it). Ashamed of his good boy nature, Loren “redecorates” his room by removing his childhood posters of superheroes, admitting to the reader that he is always “playing catch up” with Shane.
Catalyst: Shane calls Loren and invites him to smoke meth. Loren jumps at the chance to catch up.
Debate: But can Loren “grow up” enough to salvage their failing friendship? They drive to a rundown shack in a remote part of the island. Loren meets Shane’s smoking buddies and joins them in a meth purchase. Loren’s good boy nature peaks through a couple of times, but he stays the course.
Choosing Act Two: He smokes meth with Shane and Shane’s buddies.
B-Story: As the high subsides, Loren chats with Shane and his buddies. Loren tries to impress them (especially Shane) by lying about himself, spreading the sexual rumor about him and a girl named Lacey, which isn’t true, and labeling all the kids at his prep school as “fake”, which he isn’t, of course. Neither attempt is successful – pretending to be someone else isn’t working. He also tries to tie a Bowline knot and can’t – he’s book smart but unwise about the world.
Fun n’ Games (Promise of the Premise): Loren has a good time pretending to be a bad boy with Shane and his buddies. He accompanies them as they steal things for drug money and gets high with them, shirking his school responsibilities.
Mid-point: Loren and Shane go out by themselves one night. They talk about going to college abroad and how so many Hawaiians are leaving Hawaii. Shane says he doesn’t want to leave. They sneak into a hotel to drink rum and swim in the pool together. They are friends again. Looks like Loren’s conformity worked.
Bad Guys Close In: But not for long. The problems Loren has been ignoring begin to build: he still hasn’t spoken to Lacey since the rumor started, his relationship with his dad is still distant, and Shane is still keeping secrets from him (Jem has been accused of stealing science scales from the school but Shane is the real culprit).
All is Lost (& Whiff of Death): To make matters worse, Loren participates in his first theft for drug money (he’s no longer pretending; he’s an official bad boy). At the same time, Jem, overwhelmed by the criminal accusations against him, kills a man. In his getaway, Jem drives past Loren and the guys and the cops mistake their car for Jem’s. Pulled over, the cops find the stolen gear and arrest them all.
Dark Night of the Soul: Loren’s dad picks Loren up from the police station. He asks why Loren has been behaving so badly. Loren doesn’t have a good answer.
Choosing Act Three: The next morning, Loren walks through a flea market. He sees many different types of people, not just native Hawaiians. He’s been studying Hawaiian geology and the harsh affects of human behavior on its natural evolution, but it’s not just in the books. Loren stops to touch and smell a piece of fruit. He, too, is changing, for better or worse.
Finale: Later, Loren finally talks with Lacey – the conversation is rough but at least he’s bridging the gap – and learns that Shane was accepted into MIT in Boston. He’s leaving Hawaii and didn’t tell Loren. In gym class, jogging, Loren catches up to Shane and tries to congratulate him on MIT but Shane’s responses are short and curt. He runs ahead, leaving Loren behind. Loren stops running.
Final Image: Loren lies down in the weeds, done with chasing after Shane. The weeds grow tall around him – Hawaii’s evolution continues and so does Loren’s, for better or worse.